LIT & CRIT : FINANCE : CULTURE
JAMES ALTUCHER
 
PULLING BACK THE COVER 
ON HIS WRITING TECHNIQUES

by Kevin James Salveson

Shocking truth: no matter what Tony Robbins says, James Altucher is not a literal "goldmine of moneymaking information!" - Tony Robbins

That is because, it seems to me Tony, that the single best way to find a goldmine of moneymaking is to find a literal gold mine. Arizona, Mongolia, South Africa, Australia. Probably your best bet is somewhere in Africa, maybe Mali. Anyway, digging for gold even when you have a mine is not as easy as what everyone who has already made their nut wants you to believe (except James, he tells the truth).

 

Reason is, you've got to contract out people to dig, people to dispose of waste (there will be chemicals and explosions and truckers). You got to get permits and do studies so that your digging doesn't cause some sort of catastrophe and you got to not drip that chem-stew everywhere. You got to pay HR to hire and administrate and payroll the workers. One of those workers will get drunk etc and screw things up somehow. So that is why you got to buy insurance and get loans from the bankers, etc.

Then you have to process the dirt you dig up, run a warehouse to do it (more chemicals, staff, real estate, waste) and find your gold among the runoff. Then you got to ship/transport it and that means security forces. Then you got to sell it to an unstable marketplace where (if you're smart) you're probably doing some hedging in the futures markets and therefore at the end of the day not netting a damn cent!

 

And so that is Tony Robbins' Goldmine of Information about Goldmines, condensed courtesy of your new friends at ideasmilliondollar. In other words: nothing comes easy and money doesn't grow on trees (now that it is made from cotton fiber and plastic instead of wood, it grows in the ground).

 

Shocking truth:  you don't need a guru to live your life well or be a success, no matter what the publishing industry tells you.

 

Still, there is always wisdom to be had from the best authors, even if you don't join their cult. In fact, this article distills their exact alchemical formula (using successful writer James Altucher's blog posts as a specimen) so you don't need to attend one of their $3000 weekend seminars! Feel free to make me your new money saving guru (wink).

 

Let me explain by way of an anecdote. It was 1994, and I was homeless. I had been born lucky and my parents had paid for me to go to college at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, near LAX, but that didn't stop me from falling between the cracks. Well, really, I pushed myself into the crack on purpose.

After I graduated, I got a job as an English teacher at a private Catholic high school in the valley. I was still only 20. They called me "Doogie" because they said I looked as young as the students, like the TV show Doogie Howser MD where he's practically a kid but a great doctor anyway. Some of the seniors on campus were 17, just three years younger than me. It was fulfilling in its way. One student came up to me after a lecture on Thoreau and 'doing your thing with passion' and said he was more inspired by that than anything he had ever heard from a teacher. I never even tried t seduce any students! That's how old-fashioned I was.

 

Still, I was young; I wanted to see the world.  I was wary of that old adage, "Those who can't do, teach." After two years of teaching I drew a map of the world on the chalkboard in front of the students one day and asked them to identify regions and countries. I told them I was going to see the world myself, and I had just drawn them my itinerary. I left the job at the end of the term and went off to seek my fortune.

 

I wound up not too far off on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, playing music in a band and running the poetry readings for Congo Square, a coffeehouse in the era of the TV show Friends and coffeehouse bohemia. I moved in with some students from UCLA and we shared a house in West LA. I also got a job as a DJ (and social activist by way of my program Alternative Outlook, which was liberal journalism) at the college radio station KXLU-FM 88.9, but it didn't pay.

 

After two years of doing that I was flat broke since working the coffeehouse offered only about minimum wage and I was spending my money on musical equipment and beer and pot when I could find it. I was also writing my first novel, Salvation Road, about the homeless problems I saw in Santa Monica.

Then the landlord raised the rent on us. My roommates got sick of me and kicked me out of the house for being late on the rent too often. One guy was a new roomie, too, a bruiser with giant muscles; he was not a compatriot. I had nowhere to go, so I asked them if I could clean out the house's back-lot detached garage and live in there if I towed away the old rotting car and cleaned it up some.

 

Three of four roommates agreed, so then I lived in that garage for several months. It was a hovel with no insulation or heat; it felt romantic to a young liberal who wanted to understand life by living it, a Jack Kerouac type inspired by the beats. And I worked on my novel and my music and I was happy.

Then I got fired from the coffeehouse job because I was eating all of the food they were trying to sell to the customers. I don't blame them, they had been great to all the artists and writers on the Promenade who called it home but they were not running a charity. So, finally, when I couldn't pay my rent at all, the roomies kicked me out of the garage. Everything was coming down to the wire. Could I get my book published before I died of exposure to the elements? It was a kind of cosmic justice: I needed to really be homeless myself if I was going to write a book about the homeless.

 

For several days I snuck back into the garage late at night and crashed on the cement floor with a blanket, trying to not make much noise and alert them to my presence. Then I would get up and sneak out at dawn each morning and get back to work on my novel.

At the same time, I was fighting the devil. I was doing a lot of the writing of my work in progress by taking the bus to my old college and working in the computer lab all day. Once, I decided I had to work through the night so I swiped one of the keys to the place. When the guard came through at three AM he found me huddling behind a bookshelf. I was ashamed the next day when I had to face the lady who ran the lab; she had been wondering why something seemed different each morning.

Yet I was consumed by work and so I rocked around the clock. I started crashing on the school cafeteria's lounge couch until the campus security figured that out too and told me that I was banned from the campus after 10 pm.

I was on a crusade to bring the world my literature, so every setback was satanic and made me re-double my resolve. I was focused like a laser on getting the work done to the exclusion of bathing and eating for the most part. I had no money but I was going to self-publish and host an event at the coffeehouse (thanks Kieran, even after you fired me!). The campus print-shop agreed to do a cheap wax binding for me for what little money I had.

Yet, Satan was not getting behind me. The day I went in to actually print up the final galley to deliver to the printer I found the entire document had been corrupted! Every thirty characters or so the software had inserted some kind of garbage text. Damn you, Beelzebub! I'm not going to let you win! 

Meanwhile, my publishing partner Jon Roa (it was a "split novel" like a 7" music single, so there were two books in one) got cold feet and that very day said that I couldn't include his half. I was freaking out, everything was falling apart. All that time and energy. I begged him and begged him to let me go through with it. After all, I had typeset his stuff for him and had done all the prep work and here we were at the finish line!

So, despite not even believing in the devil, I wondered why the universe was trying to prevent me from getting my work out. It must be good work, was my answer!  The devil was afraid. My partner finally relented and said, "go ahead, publish it," though it ruined our relationship. 

I ran to the print shop and begged the guy to wait for me to do the corrections. He said, "Naw, I gotta go man, you're late."  I didn’t tell him I was late because I had to convince my partner to stick with it to the bitter end. Instead, I cajoled him, I plied him with the promise of two bottles of wine and a thank you to him personally in the author's notes.

Did he relent?

 

Click here for page 2, if your curiosity has been piqued, or even if it hasn't.

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